TO THOSE WHO ARE INVESTIGATING "MORMONISM"

If you are investigating Mormonism (the "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" or "LDS Church"), you are probably studying it in private meetings in your home with missionaries from that church. Here are some of the key things that they are probably telling you:

  • Mormonism began when Joseph Smith, a young man in western New York, was spurred by a Christian revival where he lived in 1820 to pray to God for guidance as to which church was true. In answer to his prayers he was visited by God the Father and God the Son, two separate beings, who told him to join no church because all the churches at that time were false, and that he, Joseph, would bring forth the true church. This event is called "The First Vision."

  • In 1823 Joseph had another heavenly visitation, in which an angel named Moroni told him of a sacred history written by ancient Hebrews in America, engraved in an Egyptian dialect on tablets of gold and buried in a nearby hill. Joseph was told it was the history of the ancient peoples of America, and that Joseph would be the instrument for bringing this record to the knowledge of the world. Joseph obtained these gold plates from the angel in 1827, and translated them into English by the spirit of God and the use of a sacred instrument accompanying the plates called the "Urim and Thummim." The translation was published in 1830 as The Book of Mormon.

  • The Book of Mormon is a religious and secular history of the inhabitants of the Western Hemisphere from about 2200 BC to about 421 AD. It tells the reader that the American Indians are all descended from three groups of immigrants who were led by God from their original homes in the Near East to America. One group came from the Tower of Babel, and two other groups came from Jerusalem just before the Babylonian Captivity, about 600 BC. They were led by prophets of God who had the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is thus preserved in their history, the Book of Mormon. Many of the descendants of these immigrants were Christians, even before Christ was born in Palestine, but many were unbelievers. Believers and unbelievers fought many wars, the last of which left only degenerate unbelievers as survivors, who are the ancestors of the American Indians. The most important event during this long history was the visit of Jesus Christ to America, after his crucifixion, when he ministered to the inhabitants.

  • Joseph Smith was directed by revelation from God to reestablish ("restore") the true church, which he did in 1830. He was visited several times by heavenly messengers, who ordained him to the true priesthood. He continued to have revelations from God to guide the church and to give more knowledge of the Gospel. Many of these revelations are published in the Doctrine and Covenants.

  • Joseph Smith and his followers were continually persecuted for their religious beliefs, and driven from New York State to Ohio, then to Missouri, then to Illinois, where Joseph Smith was murdered in 1844 by a mob, a martyr to his beliefs. The church was then led by Brigham Young, Joseph's successor, to Utah, where the Mormons settled successfully.

  • The LDS church is led today by the successors of Joseph Smith. The present president of the church is a "prophet, seer and revelator" just as Joseph Smith was, and guides the members of the church through revelations and guidance from God.

  • The modern LDS church is the only true church, as restored by God through Joseph Smith. Other churches, derived from the early Christian church, are in apostasy because their leaders corrupted the scriptures, changed the ordinances of the original church, and often led corrupt lives, thus losing their authority.

  • By accepting baptism into the LDS church you take the first step necessary toward your salvation and your ultimate entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven (the "Celestial Kingdom").

WHAT THE MISSIONARIES WILL NOT TELL YOU

Here is a summary of important facts about the Mormon church and its history that the missionaries will probably not tell you. We are not suggesting that they are intentionally deceiving you -- most of the young Mormons serving missions for the church are not well educated in the history of the church or in modern critical studies of the church. They probably do not know the all the facts themselves. They have been trained, however, to give investigators "milk before meat," that is, to postpone revealing anything at all that might make an investigator hesitant, even if it is true. But you should be aware of these facts before you commit yourself.

Each of the following facts has been substantiated by thorough historical scholarship. And this list is by no means exhaustive!   For links to articles substantiating each of these points, CLICK on the star *   following the item.

  • The "First Vision" story in the form presented to you was unknown until 1838, eighteen years after its alleged occurrence and almost ten years after Smith had begun his missionary efforts. The oldest version of the vision is in Smith's own handwriting, dating from about 1832 (still at least eleven years afterwards), and says that only one personage, Jesus Christ, appeared to him. It also mentions nothing about a revival. It also contradicts the later account as to whether Smith had already decided that no church was true. Still a third version of this event is recorded as a recollection in Smith's diary, fifteen years after the alleged vision, where only one "personage" appeared, specifically said to be neither the Father or the Son, accompanied by many "angels," which are not mentioned in the official version you have been told about. Which version is correct, if any? Why was this event, now said by the church to be so important, unknown for so long?  *

  • Careful study of the religious history of the locale where Smith lived in 1820 shows that there was no trace of a religious revival there at that time. There were revivals in 1817 and 1824, but none in 1820.   *

  • In 1828, eight years after he says he had been told by God himself to join no church, Smith applied for membership in a local Methodist church. Other members of his family had joined the Presbyterians.   *

  • Contemporaries of Smith consistently described him as something of a confidence man, whose chief source of income was hiring out to local farmers to help them find buried treasure by the use of folk magic and "seer stones." Smith was actually tried in 1826 on a charge of moneydigging.  *

  • The only persons who claimed to have actually seen the gold plates were eleven close friends of Smith (many of them related to each other). Their testimonies are printed in the front of every copy of the Book of Mormon. No disinterested third party was ever allowed to examine them. They were retrieved by the angel at some unrecorded point. Most of the witnesses later abandoned Smith and left his movement. Smith then called them "liars." *

  • Smith produced most of the "translation" not by reading the plates through the Urim and Thummim (apparently a pair of sacred spectacles), but by gazing at the same "seer stone" he had used for treasure hunting. He would place the stone into his hat, and then cover his face with it. For much of the time he was dictating, the gold plates were not even present, but in a hiding place. *

  • The detailed history and civilization described in the Book of Mormon does not correspond to anything found by archaeologists anywhere in the Americas. The Book of Mormon describes a civilization lasting for a thousand years, covering both North and South America, which was familiar with horses, elephants, cattle, sheep, wheat, barley, steel, wheeled vehicles, shipbuilding, sails, coins, and other elements of Old World culture. But no trace of any of these supposedly very common things has ever been found in the Americas of that period. Nor does the Book of Mormon mention any of the features of the civilizations which really did exist at that time in the Americas. The LDS church has spent millions of dollars over many years trying to prove through archaeological research that the Book of Mormon is an accurate historical record, but they have failed to produce even a shred of pre-columbian archeological evidence supporting the Book of Mormon story. In addition, whereas the Book of Mormon presents the picture of a relatively homogeneous people, with a single language and communication between distant parts of the Americas, the pre-columbian history of the Americas shows the opposite: widely disparate racial types (almost entirely east Asian - definitely not Semitic), and many unrelated native languages, none of which are even remotely related to Hebrew or Egyptian. *

  • The people of the Book of Mormon were supposedly devout Jews observing the Law of Moses, but in the Book of Mormon there is almost no trace of their observance of Mosaic law or even an accurate knowledge of it.  *

  • Although Joseph Smith said that God had pronounced the completed translation of the plates as published in 1830 "correct," many changes have been made in later editions. Besides thousands of corrections of poor grammar and awkward wording in the 1830 edition, other changes have been made to reflect subsequent changes in some of the fundamental doctrine of the church. For example, an early change in wording modified the 1830 edition's acceptance of the doctrine of the Trinity, thus allowing Smith to introduce his later doctrine of multiple gods. A more recent change (1981) replaced "white" with "pure," apparently to reflect the change in the church's stance on the "curse" of the black race or darker skinned people. *

  • Joseph Smith said that the Book of Mormon contained the "fulness of the gospel." However, its teaching on many doctrinal subjects has been ignored or contradicted by the present LDS church, and many doctrines now said by the church to be essential are not even mentioned there. Examples are the church's position on the nature of God, the Virgin Birth, the Trinity, polygamy, Hell, priesthood, secret organizations, the nature of Heaven and salvation, temples, proxy ordinances for the dead, and many other matters. *

  • Many of the basic historical notions found in the Book of Mormon had appeared in print already in 1825, just two years before Smith began producing the Book of Mormon, in a book called View of the Hebrews, by Ethan Smith (no relation) and published just a few miles from where Joseph Smith lived. A careful study of this obscure book led one LDS church official (the historian B. H. Roberts, 1857-1933) to confess that the evidence tended to show that the Book of Mormon was not an ancient record, but concocted by Joseph Smith himself, based on ideas he had read in the earlier book.*

  • Although Mormons claim that God is guiding the LDS church through its president (who has the title "prophet, seer and revelator"), the successive "prophets" have repeatedly either led the church into undertakings that were dismal failures or failed to see approaching disaster. To mention only a few: the Kirtland Bank, the United Order, the gathering of Zion to Missouri, the Zion's Camp expedition, polygamy, the Deseret Alphabet*. The most recent example is the successful hoax perpetrated on the church by manuscript dealer Mark Hofmann in the 1980s. He succeeded in selling the church thousands of dollars worth of manuscripts which he had forged. The church accepted them as genuine historical documents. The church leaders learned the truth not from God, through revelation, but from non-Mormon experts and the police, after Hofmann was arrested for two murders he committed to cover up his hoax. This scandal was reported nationwide. *

  • The secret temple ritual (the "endowment") was introduced by Smith in May, 1842, just two months after he had been initiated into Freemasonry. The LDS temple ritual closely resembles the Masonic ritual of that day. * Smith explained that the Masons had corrupted the ancient (God-given) ritual by changing it and removing parts of it, and that he was restoring it to its "pure" and "original" (and complete) form, as revealed to him by God. In the 150 years since, the LDS church has made many fundamental changes in the "pure and original" ritual as "restored" by Smith, mostly by removing major parts of it. *

  • Many doctrines which were once taught by the LDS church, and held to be fundamental, essential and "eternal", have been abandoned. Whether we feel that the church was correct in abandoning them is not the point; rather, the point is that a church claiming to be the church of God takes one "everlasting" position at one time and the opposite position at another, all the time claiming to be proclaiming the word of God. Some examples are:

    -  The Adam-God doctrine (Adam is God the Father); *
    -  the United Order (all property of church members is to be held in common, with title in the church);
    -  Plural Marriage (polygamy; a man must have more than one wife to attain the highest degree of heaven); *
    -  the Curse of Cain (the black race is not entitled to hold God's priesthood because it is cursed; this doctrine was not abandoned until 1978); *
    -  Blood Atonement (some sins - apostasy, adultery, murder, interracial marriage - must be atoned for by the shedding of the sinner's blood, preferably by someone appointed to do so by church authorities);*

    All of these doctrines were proclaimed by the reigning prophet to be the Word of God, "eternal," "everlasting," to govern the church "forevermore." All have been abandoned by the present church.

  • Joseph Smith claimed to be a "translator" by the power of God. In addition to the Book of Mormon, he made several other "translations":

    - The Book of Abraham, from Egyptian papyrus scrolls which came into his possession in 1838. He stated that the scrolls were written by the biblical Abraham "by his own hand." Smith's translation is now accepted as scripture by the LDS church, as part of its Pearl of Great Price. Smith also produced an "Egyptian Grammar" based on his translation. Modern scholars of ancient Egyptian agree that the scrolls are common Egyptian funeral scrolls, entirely pagan in nature, having nothing to do with Abraham, and from a period 2000 years later than Abraham. The Grammar has been said by Egyptologists to prove that Smith had no notion of the Egyptian language. It is pure fantasy: he made it up. *

    - The "Inspired Revision" of the King James Bible. Smith was commanded by God to retranslate the Bible because the existing translations contained errors. He completed his translation in 1833, but the church still uses the King James Version. *

    - The "Kinderhook Plates," a group of eight metal plates with strange engraved characters, unearthed in 1843 near Kinderhook, Illinois, and examined by Smith, who began a "translation" of them. He never completed the translation, but he identified them as an ancient record, and translated enough to identify the author as a descendant of Pharaoh. Local farmers later confessed that they had manufactured, engraved and buried the plates themselves as a hoax. They had copied the characters from a Chinese tea box. *

  • Joseph Smith claimed to be a "prophet." He frequently prophesied future events "by the power of God." Many of these prophecies are recorded in the LDS scripture Doctrine and Covenants. Almost none have been fulfilled, and many cannot now be fulfilled because the deeds to be done by the persons named were never done and those persons are now dead. Many prophecies included dates for their fulfillment, and those dates are now long past, the events never having occurred. *

  • Joseph Smith died not as a martyr, but in a gun battle in which he fired a number of shots. He was in jail at the time, under arrest for having ordered the destruction of a Nauvoo newspaper which dared to print an exposure (which was true) of his secret sexual liaisons. At that time he had announced his candidacy for the presidency of the United States, set up a secret government, and secretly had himself crowned "King of the Kingdom of God." *

  • Since the founding of the church down to the present day the church leaders have not hesitated to lie, to falsify documents, to rewrite or suppress history, or to do whatever is necessary to protect the image of the church. Many Mormon historians have been excommunicated from the church for publishing their findings on the truth of Mormon history. *

YOUR LIFE AS A MORMON

If you should decide to become a member of the LDS church, you should be aware of what your life in the church will be like. Although you will find yourself warmly accepted by a lively community of healthy, active and generally supportive people, many of whom are very happy in Mormonism and could not imagine their lives without it, there is another side:

  • You will be continually reminded that to enter the highest degree of heaven (the "Celestial Kingdom"), you will have to go through the endowment ceremony in the temple and have your marriage to your Mormon spouse "sealed." (If your spouse is not Mormon, you cannot enter the highest degree of heaven.) To get permission to have these ceremonies performed in the temple, you must prove yourself to be a faithful and obedient member of the church and do everything commanded by the church authorities, from the Prophet down to the local level. You will have to undergo a personal "worthiness" interview with the local church authorities inquiring into your private life and your religious and social activities.

  • You will be expected to donate at least ten percent of your gross income to the church as tithing. Other donations will be expected as the need arises. You will never see an accounting of how this money is spent, or how much the church receives, or anything at all about its financial condition; the church keeps its finances secret, even from its members. *

  • You will be expected to give up the use of alcohol, tobacco, coffee and tea. In some areas, zealous local Mormon leaders will also include cola drinks. *

  • You will be expected to fulfill any work assignment given to you. These assignments may be teaching positions, clerk positions, helping with various support tasks - any job that needs to be done. Each task you perform successfully will make you eligible for others, with more responsibility and more demands upon your time. The members who perform these jobs, even those involving sensitive pastoral counseling, receive no formal training whatsoever (there is no paid, trained clergy). You will be told that God has called you to your assignments. Many Mormons find most of their spare time taken up with church work, trying to fulfill the numerous assignments that have been given them.

  • You will be expected to be unquestioningly obedient to church authorities in whatever they might tell you to do. "Follow the Brethren" is the slogan, and it means to follow without doubt or question. Discussion of whether a decree from above is correct is discouraged. You will be expected to have faith that the leaders cannot possibly lead you astray. Even if they should tell you something which contradicts what a previous prophet may have said, you will be told "A living prophet takes precedence over a dead prophet."*

  • You will be able to "vote" on those who have been called to positions of authority over you, but the voting will be by the show of hands in a public meeting. Only one candidate for each office will be voted on (the one "called by God"). The voting is therefore always unanimous in favor of the candidate.

  • You will be told not to read any material which is "not faith-promoting," that is, which may be critical or questioning of the church or its leaders, or which might place the church or its leaders in an unfavorable light.

  • You will be told not to associate with "apostates," that is, former Mormons. (You will probably be asked in your "worthiness" interview about this.)

  • If you are unmarried, you will be encouraged to marry a good Mormon as soon as possible. When you do marry, in a wedding ceremony in the temple, your non-Mormon family members and friends will not be allowed to attend the ceremony, because only "worthy" Mormons are allowed to enter the temple.

  • If you are homosexual, you will be pressured to abandon this "evil" aspect of your nature. If you do not, you will probably not be fully accepted by other church members. If you do not remain celibate, you may be excommunicated. *

  • If you are a male over 12 years of age and "worthy" (that is, if you are obedient, attend meetings, do not masturbate*, etc.), you will be ordained to one of the levels of priesthood, and, if you continue to be faithful and obedient, you will gradually advance through the priesthood ranks. If you are female, you will receive the benefits of priesthood authority only indirectly, through your Mormon father or your Mormon husband. The role of the Mormon woman is to be a wife and mother and to obey and honor her priest husband (or father). *

  • If you prove yourself to be faithful, hard working and obedient, you will eventually be considered worthy to "receive your endowment" in a Mormon temple. You will not be told in advance exactly what to expect in this lengthy ceremony, except that the details of the ritual are secret (Mormons prefer to say they are just "sacred," but they treat them as though they are secret). As part of that ceremony you will be required to swear a number of oaths, the penalty for violation of which is no longer stated but until 1990 was death by various bloody methods, such as having your throat slit from ear to ear. You will be given the secret signs and passwords which are required to enter heaven. (Although most Mormons who have not received the endowment know very little about the ceremony, the entire liturgy is now available on the Internet to Mormon and non-Mormon alike.) After receiving the endowment you will be required to wear a special undergarment at all times. *

  • If you should ever decide that you made a mistake in joining the church and then leave it, you will probably find (judging from the experiences of others who have done so) that many of your Mormon friends will abandon and shun you. If you are unable to convince your family members to leave the church with you, you will find that the church has broken up your family and your relationship with them may never recover. *

Consider very carefully before you commit yourself, and remember that any doubts you may have now will likely only increase.

Examine carefully both sides of the Mormon story. Listen to the stories of those who have been through an unhappy Mormon experience, not just those Mormons who may speak glowingly of life in the church. *

The Mormon missionaries are often charming and enthusiastic. They have an attractive story to tell. At first it sounds wonderful. But remember the old saying, "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!" Be careful not to fall into the trap of believing something simply because you want it to be true. Mormons may tell you that those who criticize the church are lying, misquoting and distorting. If you examine the sources used by the critics, however, you will discover that most of their source material is from official or semi-official Mormon writings. You, too, should examine those sources.

Is Mormonism a "cult"? Many experts on religious cults see in Mormonism the same fundamental characteristics as cults which have entrapped the unsuspecting, even though most people think of "cults" only as small, unknown groups. Use a "cult checklist" to evaluate Mormonism, or any group, before you commit yourself.*

To get more information about the other side of Mormonism, or to see the evidence supporting any of our statements about the church, feel free to contact us. Our only aim is to make sure that you hear both sides. We promise not to preach at you, but only to provide you with facts to balance the Mormon story. Click here for the names and e-mail addresses of people to contact. Click here to read personal stories of people who have left Mormonism.


For a version of this INVESTIGATOR'S INFORMATION TRACT which can be downloaded and printed for handing out or mailing click here. It contains instructions on how to edit it for use as a hand-out.
 

 

NOTES AND LINKS TO MORE FACTS


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